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The Carnival of Evolution: World Travel Edition!

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Welcome to the 56th edition of the Carnival of Evolution.

I haven’t been on holiday for a while, so for this issue I thought I’d take a trip around the world, looking in on all the exciting research and work being done in the field of evolution. There are some great posts here, from some wonderful bloggers, so go take a look!

Journey Start: Europe

I’m based in the UK, so will start the journey as close to home as possible. At The Mermaid’s Tale Anne Buchanan explores Robert MacFarlane’s description of Scua off the coast of Scotland, and how their behaviour may have evolved, as well as a post on the 100th anniversary of the famous “Piltdown Man” hoax from a gravel pit in the sound of England. There are some thoughts and comments on Gilbert White’s review of the natural history of Selbourne at Evolving Thoughts along with views on his use of the word ‘instinct’ to describe natural behaviour.

Moving down through Europe, from a conference in Venice, Italy, comes a discussion about the great wrinkled finger debate from a paper by Stephen J. Gould (no relation).  Heading out to Sweden, we have research from the University of Uppsala on the genetic changes that turn a wolf into a dog. In a subject very dear to my heart, researchers have also found that the European diamondback moth has evolved resistance to several insecticides and may provide exciting information about how insects adapt to their host plants.

Middle East and Africa

Before heading into Africa, there’s time to take just a brief stop-off into the Atlantic Ocean, to do some whale-watching, and ponder what size whales should be in a post from NeuroDojo. On the mainland of Africa, we can go back in time to the Middle Permian era, where gigantic reptiles roamed over the earth including the gorgonopsid, a reptile with some mammal-like characteristics in a post from the wonderful Fins to Feet blog. Slightly further forward in time from that, Kathy Orlinsky wonders about the climbing abilities of ancient hominins.

Asia

Heading out into Asia  the Beijing Normal University gives us the first piece of microbiological research featured in this carnival looking at how bacteria cope with phage and antibiotic challenges. The post author (guest poster Dr. Levi Morran) confirms his view of what I’ve always suspected; the apocalypse will be bacterial.

Australasia

Not strictly set in Australia, but over at The Loom Carl Zimmer talks about the origin of venom and why it is that some animals can be so deadly. I’ve always associated dangerous and poisonous animals with Australia myself, but of course they exist all over the world.

South America

Stopping by at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, there’s some wonderful research done on the mathematical modelling of Evolution by  Gregory Chaitin, whose book is reviewed at Synthetic Daisies: Metabiology and the Evolutionary Proof. There’s also a fascinating post from Victor Frankel on evolution around the Isthmus of Panama, that tiny stretch of land where North and South America join.

North America

From the Isthmus of Panama up to the final continent of this round-the-world trip: North America. In Utah we find two researchers coming up with some rather … interesting explanations as to the origins of fists, which T. Ryan Gregory dissects while cautioning about Just So stories. From the sunny Bahamas comes a story of adaptive radiation of some very beautiful fish by Noah Matton. At the BEACON centre in Michigan State University some more bacterial reserach is being carried out, student Mike Wiser is working on a long-term bacterial growth study, looking at bacterial evolution and mutation through hundreds and thousands of generations. There’s also a post about the work of Niles Eldredge in using networks rather than trees to create phylogenetic diagrams.

Back Home Again

Just because I’ve been around the world doesn’t mean I’ve seen everything there is to see; there are still plenty more marvels out there and not all of them revolve around animals, or even science. Marc Cadotte has a book review of Edmund Russell’s Evolutionary History which examines how humans have shaped the evolutionary landscape, while David Morrison has a truly epic post discussing the false analogies between anthrology and biology, which concludes that the genotype model is not always the best model to apply to non-biological disciplines. And finally, there’s some more bacterial stuff waiting for me, a podcast interview of Dr. White discussing the bacteria H. ducreyi and cultural evolution.

That brings an end to this edition of the Carnival of Evolution. If you’d like to see more, please visit the carnival on facebook, follow it on twitter and visit the blog which contains all the old editions. If you’re writing your own blog posts with an evolutionary theme, please go submit them for the next issue, which will be out on the 1st of March.

S.E. Gould About the Author: A biochemist with a love of microbiology, the Lab Rat enjoys exploring, reading about and writing about bacteria. Having finally managed to tear herself away from university, she now works for a small company in Cambridge where she turns data into manageable words and awesome graphs. Follow on Twitter @labratting.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. suzwriter 12:19 pm 02/1/2013

    Great Carnival – and thanks for including us at Genome Engineering

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  2. 2. scientific earthling 5:27 pm 02/1/2013

    Lab Rat: I live in Oz. Wish your association of dangerous and poisonous animals in Oz was true. Granted, I would not exist, but I would not know that either. Oz would be a better and more wonderful place, had it been so. The early human settlers would not have developed their burn and eat culture and destroyed the biodiversity of this ancient land.

    The human species is the worst possible life-form on this planet; but there is a bright side, this greedy, selfish, arrogant species has brought on its own extinction.

    Link to this

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